Dear Patrick: Why don’t people tell the truth in their personal ads? I am a switch, and I do not, not, not like playing power-exchange sex games with people who insist on hogging all of the power. If I can’t put on my big bad boots and be the daddy half of the time, I start to shut down and become resentful and distant. I answered the ad my boyfriend ran because he called himself versatile. Lies! Not only is he a leather top, he can’t get fucked. Or maybe I just do it wrong. Whatever. All I know is that I have to stay in touch with my masculinity. I need to use my cock in order to feel like a man. Knowing I am not going to be turned into somebody’s permanent pussy boy is what makes me feel safe enough to let somebody else top me, whether it’s vanilla or kinky. My boyfriend says everybody in the leather scene is looking for a top, and I am the only man on the face of the earth who would complain because he actually found one. He says switching has worked for him in the past but right now it is not an option, or it is not an option between the two of us for some reason. What can I do to get him to relax and take it?
At this point in time, you sound as if you resent him so much, you are not able to empathize with his side of the picture. It also sounds like you are in a bit of a hurry. Being rushed into bottoming by an angry partner is not a recipe for success with a reluctant bottom. Your feelings are completely understandable. You are not having the kind of sexual dynamic that his ad led you to anticipate. But I wonder if we can shake up this deadlock by suggesting some other ways to look at the situation.
Part of the problem is that your conditions for feeling safe enough to bottom are not being met. You are a 50/50 switch. If you can’t top half of the time, you believe you can’t go under. I’d like to question this assumption, however. It gives away a lot of your control over your own sexual experiences. As I’m sure you already know, 50/50 switches are rare. In my experience, most people have a slight preference toward topping or bottoming, even if they like to do both. How do those people manage to feel safe enough to go under? What is it about him bottoming that creates safety for you? Do you need to know he is not judging you? You mention that topping validates your manhood. Why do you associate bottoming with not being manly? It might be important for you to challenge these values, regardless of what happens to your current relationship. I think it is very possible for a top to respect a bottom and perceive him as quite manly even if he NEVER tops. Gay men want to have sex with other men. He wants to have sex with you, therefore, he perceives you as being manly. The person who is shaking up your masculinity may be you, and only you can change that.
What does your partner do or say that makes you feel safe or unsafe? Are there other things he could do to create arousal for you without doing things he doesn’t enjoy? If these sound like essay questions, you are correct, and I am recommending that mainstay of advice columns and therapists, the personal and confidential journal.
I am not sure why he doesn’t want to get fucked or bottom in a kinky context. But I do know that the harder you push him to put out, the less likely he will be to feel aroused by the prospect. You feel disappointed, and that’s hard to get past. However, unless he’s really a big jerk, I doubt that he is saying no just to frustrate and upset you. Sometimes it’s impossible to figure out why a sexual pattern changes. Sometimes we shut down sexual receptivity because of a history of trauma or abuse. If the trauma is really bad, it can be repressed for long periods of time. The individual may not have any control over when negative memories surface. Some guys prefer to bottom for people they won’t be seeing on a regular basis. The opposite can also be true. Each one-on-one connection has its own flavor, and sometimes the dominant energy will only flow in one direction.
If you feel that the two of you are not talking about this or can’t hear one another, get a trained and experienced couples counselor to facilitate.